Neutralizing the Fear Factor

Discovery of trigger for overcoming fear can lead to treatment of anxiety disorders

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WEDNESDAY, Oct. 16 HealthDay) -- In a discovery with implications for treatment of anxiety disorders, UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute investigators have identified a distinct molecular process in the brain that is involved in overcoming fear.

The animal-study findings, published in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, show for the first time that L-type voltage-gated calcium channels (LVGCCs) -- one of hundreds of varieties of electrical switches found in brain cells -- are required to overcome fear but play no role in becoming fearful or expressing fear.

The study, which focused on how mice acquire, express and extinguish conditional fear, suggests that it may be possible to identify the cells, synapses and molecular pathways specific to extinguishing fear, which then could lead to the treatment of human anxiety disorders.

"Brain plasticity, or the ability of the central nervous system to modify cellular connections, has long been recognized as a key component to learning and memory," said Dr. Mark Barad, the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute's Tennenbaum Family Center faculty scholar and an assistant professor in-residence of psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

"The discovery of a distinct molecular process in overcoming fear bodes well for development of new drugs that can make psychotherapy, or talk therapy, easier and more effective in treating anxiety disorders," he said.

More Information

The Anxiety Disorders Association of America has more.

SOURCE: UCLA, news release, Oct. 15, 2002

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